Sunday, July 19, 2015

Homemade vegan dulce de leche

homemade vegan dulce de leche

Yes. It has been done. That sticky, deep amber-colored goo of caramelized milk and sugar has been made without a trace of lactose or animal products. It is possible and it is glorious.

But first, let me tell you a little bit about what’s been popping recently in the world of June.

A couple weeks ago, I went back to Ogontz for music camp, the same rustic New Hampshire paradise I wrote about last year. Compared to the quarters at the Island School in Eleuthera, Ogontz now seemed luxurious—a new perspective which I thoroughly enjoyed.

However, this time was slightly different from all those years of family-friendly music camp. The camp centered on practice techniques for advanced students, which meant the crowd basically consisted of a couple dozen crazy talented teenagers who all roomed together in cabins and practiced for literally hours each day.

Me, I’m not so used to that. I have a terrible habit of, like, not practicing every day, and even then only for an hour at most—not like some of the other students, such as the fifteen-year-old cellist who practiced four hours a day and played probably one of the craziest things I’d heard come out of a cello for his performance piece. Or the fourteen-year-old violinist who cranked out an incredible rendition of some song entitled Romance (I can’t find it online for the life of me, sadly) who, not only because she was about six-foot-two, did not at all seem like a recently graduated eighth grader. Or the girl from Zimbabwe (having moved there a couple years ago) who is, in all likelihood, one of the best violinists currently living in the country. Or the other girl who played Bach’s chaconne, widely regarded as one of the best pieces ever composed for violin, all seventeen pages flawlessly drawn from memory.

I could make some comment about not being blessed with that kind of talent, but honestly, at some level you can’t just run on talent. It’s dedication. Love of the instrument, of music. Kinda humbling.

Of course, I might be a little more dedicated to violin if there was less Mozart involved and more Beyonce. Or if the internet wasn’t so...interesting.

Speaking of which! I did remember / have the energy to schedule posts prior to leaving the comfort of a reliable Wi-Fi connection, not only for Ogontz but also another, science-related camp last week at the local university.

Which was pretty fucking amazing. You wouldn’t think trudging through wetlands and looking at bugs after dark and sorting through wildlife photos would be fun for a bunch of teenagers, but it was. In the process, we met with tons of professors and grad students in the environmental sciences and natural resources who, for lack of a better phrase, oozed enthusiasm for their subjects. The whole week really solidified my aspiration for a career in science.

Not that I have some romantic, hunky-dory idea of what such a career is like. (Okay maybe a little.)

And don’t worry; we had some fun too outside all the intellectual heavy lifting. For example, bonding over the spaghetti song.

But now that’s over, and the rest of the summer lies ahead in all of its dull glory. So here I am with another recipe.


In pursuit of my super-secret cake-related project, I realized I needed a bit of vegan dulce de leche for one particular recipe. Not exactly something you can pick up at your local supermarket. What to do? Well, spend a lazy afternoon stirring a pot of milk and sugar until it turns brown and gooey, of course! 

Tastes much better than it looks.

I wasn’t too worried about how it would come out, but I still wasn’t willing to waste, like, fifteen bucks on a vanilla bean for a recipe that might not even come out well; so that is why I opted to not use that particular ingredient, as mentioned in the recipe. But now it’s all done and tested and you might want to use a vanilla bean if you venture out to make it yourself.

And yeah, you should make it. Not just for a specific recipe, but to have around for all your dulce de leche needs. Drizzling on a cupcake. Dipping sauce for churros. Eating with a spoon. And while you’re at it, feel free to double, triple, quadruple the recipe. Can’t have too much homemade dulce de leche. 

Your jar supply is the limit.

One final note about the color / texture of the dulce de leche—it’s a little different from the typical store bought cans, a little thinner and a little different hue. But it’s still got the characteristic dulce de leche flavor. I imagine you could use it as a dairy-free substitute wherever a recipe calls for the stuff.

Here’s the recipe.


Homemade vegan dulce de leche

Adapted from Alton Brown

Makes about 1 cup


440 grams • coconut milk, full-fat • 2 cups

488 grams • nondairy milk of choice • 2 cups

340 grams • granulated sugar • 1 ½ cups

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (optional—I did not use one and it came out delicious nonetheless)

2 grams • baking soda • ½ teaspoon


Combine coconut milk, nondairy milk, and sugar (and vanilla bean and seeds, if using) in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Add baking soda and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, at a bare simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook for 1 hour—after 1 hour, remove vanilla bean, if using.

Cook for another 1 ½ hours, until the mixture is a dark caramel color and has reduced to about 1 cup. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Let cool completely before using.


Is that...cake?

Above you can see a snapshot of how I used some of the dulce de leche as both decoration and in the frosting. Worked pretty well, if how we all devoured the cake is any indication.

While you’re here, check out some of the other veganized recipes I’ve made.

Vegan challah. Completely egg-free!

Rosewater raspberry meringues. No chickpea juice in these vegan meringues.

Mint chocolate chip macarons. These are a world-changer.  


  1. Oh my, this looks so delicious... :)

  2. Sounds like you are having a much more interesting summer than I am!
    And you definitely can't have too much dulce de leche. I think this would be amazing drizzled on some pancakes. I had no idea you could make vegan dulce de leche. I will have to keep this recipe handy. My daughter, who has been vegetarian for over two years, is thinking about becoming vegan. Which really has me scared because she only likes about 5 foods now and if she becomes a vegan, it will be so much harder to find things she will eat. But its really nice to learn how many foods can be made vegan!

    1. Yeah it really is amazing what you can do to make things vegan, dairy-free, etc. these days! This would be perfect on pancakes, great idea :D

  3. I've made caramel with coconut milk before, so I'm glad to hear that dulce de leche works also! Delicious.

  4. why do vanilla beans have to be so expensive, man? it's criminal!

    the dulce de leche looks crazy good on that cake. who gives a damn about texture? I bet it taste hella good.

    1. I know right? I would use "real" vanilla more often otherwise. Glad you like the dulce de leche :)

  5. Why would I buy this when I can make it at home?
    Although I think I will wait a couple of months before trying it out. Stove on for half the day = SUPER hot apartment!

    1. Ah yes, that much is true--I definitely had to keep the windows wide open making this :P Hope you do try it someday!

  6. Dear June, you must have spent a wonderful time at the music camp...sounds quite amazing to me. And your vegan dulce de leche has a wonderful warm color and looks utterly delicious - what a great recipe - who would have thought?! It is definitely worth a try and I can just imagine a little drizzle over the coconut ice cream...

    1. Coconut ice cream and dulce de leche sounds like a great idea! I will have to try that... :D

  7. Love this!!! I've recently noticed my body not being too happy with me after some dairy so I've been trying to cut back, and this dulce de leche is PERFECT!

    1. Oh I totally feel you--this is great for those of us who can't handle too much dairy :)